Government

Proposal to Impose Sewer Connection Fees Presented to Council. Plan Would be an 'Infusion into the Budget'

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PATERSON, NJ- With just weeks to go in her term Mayor Jane Williams Warren appeared before the Paterson City Council on Tuesday to ask for their support for a proposal to bring millions of dollars of new revenue into the city.

Joined by members of her Administration, as well as Douglas Triplett of O’Connor Davies, the accounting and auditing firm hired under the direction of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, Warren suggested that the plan to impose sewer connection fees to new construction would be “an infusion into the budget,” and help alleviate a problem that has been discussed as long as she’s been in City Hall. Warren, prior to her retirement in 2014, had worked for the city since 1966, including more than two decades as city clerk.

Saying that connection fees “level the playing field” by forcing new customers to bear some of the costs that users have paid for years to maintain the sewer system, Triplett presented that the proposal is similar to what is already being done in other municipalities, including Clifton, Hackensack, and Newark.

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According to the ordinance, the fees imposed on new residential construction would be $3,157.31 per dwelling unit, meaning  it would increase by that amount for each unit of a multi-family dwellings. Sample calculations on commercial construction were also provided including for a 20,000 square foot office building or shopping center at $23,828.75 and a 70-seat fast food restaurant at $12,510.10.

Following concerns raised by Council President Ruby Cotton regarding construction projects by non-profits, such as the 75 homes she said Paterson Habitat for Humanity is expected to build in the 4th Ward, Nellie Pou, the city’s business administrator, clarified that the fee would be reduced by 50 percent to such entities with the tax exempt status.

Saying that he recognized that the effort is one to “recoup other’s investment,” Councilman Ken Morris articulated that through the fees “the cost of doing business is increasing,” a sentiment shared by Councilman Michael Jackson who suggested that “these fees will be passed along to residents,” and not simply paid for by developers as those proposing the plan presented.

Councilman Bill McKoy, an auditor by trade, also questioned the dollar amounts included in the draft ordnance saying that while he understood the need he wasn’t “sold on the analyses.”

“The basis of the calculations is not sound,” he said before recommending a more “gradual approach”  to make sure that the additional costs “do not become a hindrance to growth.”

Cherone responded by saying that the calculations were “driven by the legislation” while also offering that the proposal would generate $3 million per year based on the issuance of 1,000 new construction permits annually.

“We are 28 years too late in charging this fee,” Councilman Shahid Kahlique lamented referring to the time that has passed since state legislation allowing for sewer connection fees was signed into law, while Councilwoman Martiza echoed his support for the measure offering that “it’s time.”

The measure is due to appear on the agenda of the council’s next meeting on May 30.

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